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The honour and riches derived to us from our birth, or that we obtain by lawful and just means, are to be ranked among the blessings of God. Therefore Esther, who was bat a poor stranger, received with joy, as a favour from heaven, the imperial crown that was put upon her head, and Fetused not to be the wife of the greatest monarch of that time. Joseph accepted willingly the power and dignity with thich king Pharaoh had invested hịm ; and the prophet
Qiel did not only take the honourable commands which wete bestowed upon him by the king of Babylon, but he employed his power and credit to raise all his companions
places of trust, and to the government of that empire.od sometimes gives sceptres into the hands of cruel and orane persons ; such as were Pharaoh, Ahab, Nebuchadezzar, Belshazzar, and Herod, to teach us, that it is not the
"good of man, and that we must aim at a more excellent kin at kingdom, and at more solid and constant felicities. He places upon the throne men according to his own heart,
he cherishes as the apple of his eye, as David, SoloJehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josias, to teach us that
r of God, and the expectation of an immortal crown, inconsistent with the honours of this life, nor with
glory : for true piety hath the promise of this life, and that which is to come.
the fear of God is not inconsis
nours and dign useful and adva dispose of thi ful helps to tri and to exercise they givea Riches turn to brutal sordid ton, as in the gosy
e riches of the earth are no more hurtful than the hoadd dignities, unless it be by accident; they are very
and advantageous to such as employ them well, and e of them with religious discretion. They are powerps to true piety, and excellent means to glorify God,
exercise our mercy and compassion; I may say that hve a lustre to the zeal and charity of God's children.
turn to evils, and are ill bestowed, in the hands of a Sordid Nabal; at the disposition of a merciless glut
the gospel; of a perfidious and treacherous Judas;
of a silly and debauched youth, as the prodigal son : but they are the blessings of heaven, when they fall into the hands of a Joseph, who nourisheth therewith his father, and all his kindred; into the hands of a David, that employed them in offerings to Almighty God in the sight of the people ; of a Solomon, who built a magnificent temple ; and of a Mary Mag
dalen, who spent them not in luxury and vanity, nor in curisous trinkets, but to buy a box full of precious ointment, which
she poured on the head of the Saviour of the world. These are blessings indeed, when such an one enjoys them as Cora nelius the Centurion, who employed them in alms, where of the perfume ascended up to the throne of the God of mercies. In short, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the eternal wise dom of the Father, hath uttered out of his sacred mouth, that it was more blessed to give than to receive, Acts xx.
I am not ignorant of the oracle pronounced by tbis great God and Saviour, " That wbosoever doth not renounce fasher, mother, houses and lands, for my sake, is not worthy of me,” Matt. X. This was said to teach us, that we must renounce with heart and affections all things in the world, and of this present life, and that we must be always ready to forsake all, in case we cannot keep them without offending God, and giving a scandal to his church. But without such ab. solute necessity, God requires not from us, in any place of scripture, actually to quit and leave our worldly possessions.
I know also very well, that when a young man inquired of our Saviour, “What he was to do to inherit eternal life,” this wise teacher returned him this answer, “ Sell all that thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have riches in heaven; then come and follow me,” Luke xviii. This was a particular commandment made only to that man, upon a singular occasion; from whence it is not possible that we should gather any conclusion to oblige others to the same
action: action: for otherwise this might oblige all Christiansin general to sell what they have, without exception, and to give it to the poor. The commandment was given upon this occasion : this vain-glorious Pharisee boasted of having kept all the commandments of God from his youth up. To remove this good opinion of himself out of his mind, and to give vent to the swelling of his pharisaical pride, our Lord puts him io a trial, enjoins him to sell all his gools, and to give them to the poor. At these words the young man went away very sad in a confusion, because he liad much riches, and his strongest affections were fixed there. By this he discovered that he was far from loving God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, because it appeared that he loved his worldly possessions more than Christ and his blessedness. You may therefore understand without difficulty, devout souls, that this commandment made to this young man extends not to all in general. If it had been so understood, the holy apostles, who were mindful of every thing that tended to perfection, would not have rested satisfied with the loss of their goods, to follow Christ, as they declared to him themselves : “ We have left all, and have fola lowed thee,” Matt. xix. but they would have reserved nothing for themselves ; which course they never took : for St. John, Christ's beloved disciple, had a dwelling-house, where he entertained the holy Virgin after our Saviour's death, John xix. And the other apostles had their ships, their nets and tacklings : therefore after Christ's resurrection they returned to their fishing-trade.
Our Saviour, upon the occasion of the young man's refusing to obey this express and particular command of selling his goods, and giving them to the poor, informs his disciples, “That it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” But he explains in another place this passage in such a manner, that he leaves not the least dificulty in iti
when when he saith, that it is hard for them who put their confidence in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God, Matt. xix. By this we may understand, that he speaks not of all rich men in general, but of such only who put their trust in their riches. Therefore the apostle St. Paul does not command the rich men to cast away their estates and goods; but he advises them not ta put their confidence in them, so as to become more vain and haughty. In this manner he speaks in Timothy,“ Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy,” 3 Tim. vi.
Here are therefore the best directions, according to my judgment, for a true Christian, who desires his soul to be acceptable to God, to attain the dispositions necessary for an happy death.
1. We must employ our most constant and earnest endea. vours and affections for the spiritual advantages of the soul, and of the life to come. We must thirst impatiently for the graces of God, and for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We must sigh and long for the spiritual robes of the soul, and labour with all our strength to attain to the incorruptible crown and the immortal glory of heaven. Christ gives us this holy and safe advice, “ Seek,” saith he, “ first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matt. vi. And elsewhere, “ Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life,” John vi.
2. As the good king Solomon built first the Lord's house, and then laid the foundation of his own palace; thus we ought to proceed to labour first for the advancement of God's kingdom and the edification of his church, that then we may have liberty to employ ourselves about the affairs of this present life, and about our worldly concerns. But our employment and calling must be just, and warranted by the laws of God and man ; for he that gains riches by unlawful arts, is but a thief and a robber.
3. Before we engage in any work, we must pray to God to vouchsafe_his blessing to it, and speak to him as Moses, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hand upon us ; yea, the work of our hand establish thou it,” Psa. xc. For without his assistance and blessing all our labours will be in vain, and to little purpose. It is God that makes poor and makes rich, that lifts up and abaseth, James ii. “ Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth ; but God that giveth the increase," I Cor. iii. The royal prophet is of the same judge ment, when he saith, “ If the Lord buildeth not the city, their labour is but lost that build it.”
4. Our labour must be without murmurings, and mistrust. ing God's providence ; we must banish out of our minds all idle thoughts, and groundless expectations, that disturb us, Psa. cvii. We must pluck out of our hearts all the cares and displeasures that trouble us. We must imprint in our minds that excellent sentence of David, “ Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee,” Psa. v. and that of St Peter,“ Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you,” 1 Pet. v. We must remember our Saviour's charge, “ Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life,” Luke xxi.
5. Above all things we must beware of the slavish vice of covetousness, that denies God's good providence, and his fatherly care. To that purpose St. Paul exhorts us in express words, “ Let your conversation be without covetousness, and